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Kyle Larson will jump into NASCAR's top series a little earlier than originally planned.
Larson, the 21-year-old prodigy tapped to take over the No. 42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing next season, will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut Oct. 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the team announced Tuesday. He'll drive the No. 51 Target Chevy for Phoenix Racing, which began operating under new management from team owner Harry Scott Jr. last month.
Larson will also drive the No. 51 in the Sprint Cup event at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 27. Scott is also the co-owner of Turner Scott Motorsports, which fields Larson's entries in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Larson was announced as EGR's replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya on Aug. 30. Montoya, who has two wins in seven full Sprint Cup seasons, will be rejoining the IndyCar ranks next year with team owner Roger Penske.
Larson, under contract as a developmental driver for the Earnhardt Ganassi team since early 2012, has spent this season as a Nationwide Series rookie in Turner Scott's No. 32 Chevrolet. He ranks ninth in series points, with three runner-up finishes among his eight top-fives.
Larson will become the youngest full-time Sprint Cup driver next season, but both he and team owner Chip Ganassi dismissed questions about his readiness after the announcement.
"There's an opportunity here, and he's a great driver, and he's obviously the No. 1 pick as said by many other people besides myself," Ganassi said. "Nobody deserves a shot more than he does."
Larson brings a wealth of experience from the sprint-car ranks and also boasts solid stock-car credentials after winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship in 2012. Larson, of Japanese-American descent, became the first product of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program to prevail in a national series event by scoring his breakthrough NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Rockingham Speedway on April 14.
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